SPANISH scientists in China have successfully spliced human DNA together with monkey DNA in an experiment to investigate the possibilities of growing human organs inside monkey embryos.
The ‘chimera’ zygote was formed by adding a human stem cell to a genetically modified monkey embryo in order to grow a specific type of tissue.
The Ancient Greek term ‘chimera’ refers to a hybrid animal that has two or more different sets of DNA in its genome, in this case it denotes a monkey with human cells.
Because of the global laws forbidding such experiments the gestation of the chimera was cut off at 14 days before it developed a central nervous system and fail safe procedures were required to prevent cells developing into neurones.
The leader of the research team Juan Carlos Izpisúa comes from Albacete and works for the Catholic University of Murcia (UCAM) but had to relocate to China with his team to conduct the experiment as the ethical laws surrounding the process are much looser.
Izpisúa and his colleague Estrella Nuñez will present a research paper outlining their findings later in the year.
Although Nuñez says that it is unlikely that they can successfully grow a human organ in a monkey embryo today, the progress is a huge step up from their last experiments in which they tried to splice human DNA with pig DNA.